September 16th, 2004



Sometimes I can stagger at (become bestaggered by?) the sheer number of ways in which a young man can become depressed. I need to stop listening to Audioslave late at night, and maybe get more sleep.

I'm probably getting sick. Or doing that thing I do wherein I feel like I'm starting to get sick for a few days, but don't actually come up with any particular symptoms aside from generally feeling like crap.

I almost slept through that game I'm supposed to be GMing last night. (Whoops!) That campaign has also been getting pretty dark lately, but it's fairly gritty and centers around war and politics. And I have been told that I'm at my best GM-wise when dealing with dark, conflicted disturbing shit. (And the plot involves the military of a huge, powerful nation invading and occupying a smaller, war-torn one for questionable reasons, but under the flag of Peace And Security For Everyone, so it's not hard to find inspiration these days.) So for that, anyway, being down is good.
  • Current Music
    I got hella depression but that don't stop the show

Gettin' Ill with the Hill

Most of you have heard my Silent Hill rantings before, but I really am impressed with the the latest installment. Short version: It is good enough to make me put aside time to play console games again, and that says a lot with my schedule.

I have a deep emotional resonance with the character; I don't get out enough, and have trouble relating to people, but Henry is literally trapped inside his apartment, and no one can hear him screaming.

They had fun with the whole real world/Hell World aspect... Rather than the world becoming nightmarish in cycles (as in the original), or as you ventured further from the light (in the third) or just all the damn time (number 2), you have your apartment, where life is almost normal, and you can rest and sleep... And you have the unexplained, jagged hole in your bathroom wall leading to the "other side", the the only other place you can go.

There is a lot of subtle horror... The most disturbing things are often the ones you can't see. Something very terrible has happened, and is still happening, but the designers resist the temptation to just explain it to you. Why are there bloody handprints on the wall across from my door, in the "real" world? Why can't anyone else see them? Who keeps sliding disturbing things under my front door, and why can't I who it is? When my landlord puts a clean white eviction notice through the mail slot, why is it bloodstained, yellowed, and unreadable on my side of the wall? Where is my apartment, exactly?

The gameplay is streamlined as well... You're either looking at the world (shuffling through your iconified items with the D-pad), or reading a book or a map. No more bleepy video game status screens. Your inventory is limited, and there's no bullshit Resident Evil style "magic trunk" that follows you around as you go; You keep your stuff in your apartment. (They have some fun with the mechanism of limited inventory and keeping extra things in your only safe haven, later on in the game.)

You can also fill your limited space with protective items (talismans that eventually shatter, candles that burn out) rather than weapons, and the combat itself is more fluid; Dodging and running is almost more effective than fighting, although you'll miss important clues and items if you run away from everything. And it's more detailed, too... Some things only come after you if you disturb them, and sometimes if you kill one member of a pack, they'll stop to eat the corpse instead of you. Disturbing, realistic, and creative all at the same time. It's a much better way to appeal to both bloodthirsty and pacifist players than by having an Easy/Hard slider for the combat; You always have to deal with the beast, but you have a lot of options. I miss the Radio (what's with that radio?) and the flashlight, but the creators take advantage of them not being there, and later sort of reinvent both of them, and the results are... pleasantly unpleasant.

I've been playing it on Normal, and felt like it was either a little easy or I was missing things... But... Let's just say that they've gone back to the original in terms of pacing, and you'll be wondering what you did to deserve all this soon enough... And things that didn't make sense before will come back to haunt you, literally. And the ghosts... well... you may think, ghosts, demon-dogs, disfigured nurses with scalpels, I've played Silent Hill before, what's the big deal? I don't want to spoil it for anyone, but they are not just "horror game monsters". They are AWFUL. And you will learn to fear them, even once you finally start to learn how to deal with them. Especially once you think you've got them figured out. They all float... down here...

And suffice to say that there are a lot of references to catch and twitch about if you were into the plot and details of the previous games, but you have to know them to get it. And a lot of the recurring phrases, images ("What's a wheelchair doing here?"), and scenes from the other games are alluded to here ("There's a hole in the ground. Jump down?"), or have diabolical implications in your new context (THERE WAS A HOLE HERE BUT ITS GONE NOW), or will otherwise make a memorable experience even more excrutiating.

I want to make games about damnation when I grow up.
  • Current Music
    Silent Hill 4 Soundtrack: Lullaby